We've had a stack of rough, well-weathered shipping pallets sitting where we get a lot of sun at the edge of the woods for months. We thought we might use them to build a fence for our garden-to-be, but we didn't like the look when we started assembling them. The other day when we were talking about ground that needs to get dug out before we can put up decking on one side of the house, it hit us: we should use the pallets to build raised beds and put the soil we dig up in them, mixed with the big pile of leaves we raked off the ground.
Because we don't know what the pallets have been used for and we know we want to plant edibles in them, we decided to line them completely with thick plastic that we had left over from another project. (Hopefully, they'll last longer this way, too.) So, far we've built and lined one monster-sized bed: two feet high, two wide and twelve long. We've layered earth and partially composted leaves up about eight inches now. We plan on filling the planters at least halfway, then use our best compost mixed with top soil and other amendments for the top planting area.
After that, we'll build at least one more raised bed, and we still have to figure out the fencing--unless we're doing all this just to feed the deer. (At this rate, we won't be offering you too many tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers this year.)
We've been invited to scavenge what we want from a few fallen outbuildings up the mountain. I've found a couple old windows and wood boxes, semi-rotting boards and rusty hinges and door handles. I have all my "finds" stored in the carport until we figure out where we'll use them. I already plan on using many of the boards--once cleaned, trimmed and sanded--on one of the living room walls. Others will likely become shelves.
My favorite find so far: an green old shipping crate with stenciled origin (Japan) and destination (Washington, DC). We built interior shelves so it could house our new Biolite wood-burning grill (you can read about it here) and a load of fuel. We stripped wood off pallets to make the shelves and build a base. Now we need a couple hinges to replace the old rusty ones that don't work. Eventually, the box will get coated with Thomson's Waterseal and it will sit outside one the tiny house's doors, stacked full of wood to burn in the grill and in our Kimberly wood stove (see more on the stove here).
I love the idea of incorporating these relics into our new house. They speak to the history of this mountain, of all that's gone on before us. This mountain was home to J. Russell Smith, geographic economist and "tree crop" advocate (our Tree Crops Lane is named in his honor), to Ellie Sanderson, whose painting studio still stands in the woods, to Sam and Betty Stowe, the writers, world travelers and generous souls who welcomed me to their mountain home some forty years ago. I hope their spirits feel welcome in this wee house we're building with new 2x4s, plywood, wiring and all the rest--but also with much-appreciated bits and pieces they left behind for us.
We liked the table we put together for the screen house so much, we decided to make another! Using the same basic design (pallet-wood top, IKEA metal base), we assembled another counter-height table with the wood oriented in a different direction. (Going for the different-but-complementary aesthetic.)
One table will continue to provide dining space in the screen house; the other will be part of the tiny house kitchen—an extension of the counter that's also a stand-alone dining table. The idea is: when we have people over, we can put the two tables together for more space in the screen house, the tiny house or on the deck.
Now, if spring will only make an appearance, we'll finish the house that goes with the table!
Hunkered down in the house, avoiding sub-freezing temps and snow, we've been working on indoor projects. When we do venture out, we love our campfires here on the mountain. Hence, one recent "hunkered down" project—fire starters.
The ingredients: Beer cans (any beverage cans will do; our canned beverage of choice happens to involve malts and hops); corrugated cardboard; old candle stubs; and an old can for melting wax.
The steps: Cut the bottom off a beer can, leaving about one inch of can (start off a slit with a knife; then use scissors to cut around the can). Cut cardboard into one-inch strips, roll tightly until the diameter of the beer can, and stuff the roll into the beer can base. Add a wick in the middle (tiny cardboard strips work for this, or use old candle wicks). Melt wax by immersing a can with old candles in a pot of boiling water. Pour the wax over the cardboard until near the top of the can base.
Our test starter burned brightly for at least 45 minutes—plenty of time to get a roaring fire going.
We had the ends of a couple pallets sitting around after building stairs for the screen house. They were destined for the fire ring until we realized we could hang them on the carport wall and use them to corral the garden tools—rakes, hoe, pitchfork, clippers, etc—that were flopping around and getting misplaced on a regular basis. A slap of stain and a few screws later, we have ourselves a handy place to grab a shovel when it's time to dig.
We'd forgotten we had a big, black chest of drawers stored in the back of the garage. Rediscovering it a couple weeks ago, I realized we could use it as the center of the screen house "kitchen." Bill stripped out half the drawers and we dropped in a small IKEA steel sink (only $19.99!).
With a few plumbing pipes attached and a bucket underneath to catch water...all we needed was the water! We hunted around for a foot pump, water tank and faucet—both online and at the marine store—but didn't find anything that worked for us. Then the lightbulb went off: Bill suggested we buy another Berkey water filter. If you don't know about Berkeys, you should! They can turn the nastiest water into pure, safe drinking water, and they do it with style. We love the one we already have, the smallest stainless steel model. We opted for a bigger model, the Royal, for the screen house, so we won't need to fill it as often. In the picture, you'll see our Travel model filling in as the water source while we await the Royal's arrival in the mail.
So, the bureau became the sink on one side. We use the drawers on the other half for our propane camp stove, JetBoil, pots and pans, dishwashing soap, etc. With shipping pallet doors installed on the sink side, the kitchen was almost ready for action. Next project, was to build a box of wood to fit the drawers taken out of the bureau. That piece holds our food now, with our sweet steel Coleman on top for anything we want to keep cold. (The cold is courtesy of half-gallon ice blocks we swap out from Susan's freezer.)
We've been busy making furniture for the screen house the past few days (pictures to come)...which reminded me of an earlier furniture exercise. Months before we relocated to the country, we fashioned two stools/ottomans/coffee tables/storage units—on wheels!—to use in tiny house. The idea was to start thinking about small-space design at the same time one of us (that would be me) got familiar with power tools.